At last week’s village board meeting, Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman proclaimed Feb. 1-7 as National Gun Violence Survivors Week in Oak Park, which was approved by the trustees. This proclamation energizes those of us working hard to end gun violence because it communicates that gun violence, its victims and survivors are important. They’re so important that the village of Oak Park and the community should dedicate time, energy and resources to address the issues and needs.

How can we as a village and individuals respond to this proclamation to make a difference for survivors? We can:

•      Listen to survivors’ stories and learn from those providing services to survivors. Some survivor stories can be found at

•      Provide survivors support and services for the trauma they’ve experienced and are continuing to experience.

•      Commit to do everything we can to prevent further gun violence.

One action to prevent gun violence is a gun buyback program. This is being explored by the Waging Peace Team of First United Church of Oak Park and Gun Responsibility Advocates of Oak Park.

We have been considering how such an event could reduce gun violence and communicate care and hope for survivors. We envision a voluntary gun buyback program, supervised by law enforcement, in which donated guns are eventually destroyed and then transformed into useful tools of peace. Guns can be transformed into objects such as garden tools, or objects to commemorate life — such as a life affirming sculpture.

Such a process can aid healing for survivors as they hammer the gun barrel into a garden trowel, or commemorate victims with a sculpture installation. A program called “Guns to Gardens” has been transforming gun parts into objects of peace for a number of years.

Many of us in Oak Park know that guns in the home can lead to tragedy. I have two dear friends who lost their teenage sons due to guns found at home. One teen was visited by another who brought a gun from his home. While a group of friends played with it, my friend’s son was killed. Another friend’s son was simply sitting on his porch on a hot summer night when he was killed. A neighboring youth found a gun at home and shot the gun in random directions, killing his neighbor. There are many more stories, too many stories, among our families and friends about guns from home putting others at risk. Sometimes the gun is used in a suicide, other times a gun is stolen and then used in a crime, placing the larger community at risk.

Many people may have unwanted guns in their homes. Some gun owners receive their guns from family members, or inherit them. Or some realize that with young children in the house, having guns increases the risks.

People may have all sorts of reasons for wanting to surrender a gun at a gun buyback. A gun buyback can encourage them to surrender the gun. Once they surrender the gun or guns, they can wake up the next morning and realize their home, their children, and other family members are safer.

  •             Safer from children misusing the gun or taking it to school
  •             Safer from suicide attempts
  •             Safer from domestic violence
  •             Safer from thieves

The National Gun Violence Survivors Week proclamation was a wonderful reminder to affirm our mutual commitment to doing what we can to support survivors by preventing further gun violence. We believe a gun buyback program fits right in for Oak Park.

Lois Thiessen Love is an Oak Park resident and member of First United Church of Oak Park.

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